Quangos 'neglect consumers'

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The Independent Online
NEW quangos in the health service, housing, and in training and enterprise consider themselves more accountable to the Government than to consumers, according to research published today, writes Nicholas Timmins.

The supposed independence from Government of Training and Enterprise Councils, housing associations and NHS Trusts is belied by the existence of detailed mechanisms for central control. Down the line, however, they are left with a 'do- it-yourself' approach to making themselves accountable to their customers and to ordinary citizens.

The lack of local accountability worries not just the public, according to John Plummer, the author of the study, but those serving on the quangos themselves.

The research published by Demos, the independent think-tank, and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, argues that the lack of accountability was an oversight on the Government's part when the bodies were set up.

The result is that only 5 to 6 per cent of people in opinion polls support the present arrangements, though there is also little support for a local authority take-over of quangos which, on some calculations, spend pounds 46bn of taxpayers' money a year.

The Governance Gap: Quangos and Accountability; Demos, 9 Bridewell Place, London EC4V 6AP.